Need for Speed Payback

Game review by
Paul Semel, Common Sense Media
Need for Speed Payback Game Poster Image
Popular with kids
Decent yet flawed illegal street racer grinds its gears.

Parents say

age 7+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 18 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Players are trying to do right by their friends, but are also trying to get revenge.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Player is trying to get revenge by doing illegal things. Players also disobey the police, and will even knock them off the road.

Ease of Play

Uses traditional racing game controls, has three difficulty options.


While there are violent car crashes, they are shown in movie-style slo-mo: You never see driver being injured; no blood, gore.


Game features real-life cars, might entice players to buy said cars. Players can also set side bets for races. Lots of logos.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Need for Speed Payback is a racing game that's safe for all but the youngest gamers, though parents might want to talk to teenagers who either just started driving or will be soon to explain how this game differs from real-life driving. Especially since this game has you racing real cars on city streets at unsafe speeds, as well as off-road vehicles on dirt paths, along with trying to outrun the police. While there are violent car crashes, you never see the driver being injured, and thus there's no blood or gore. There are also opportunities to set side wagers for events. Otherwise, there's no inappropriate content.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byMark S. March 23, 2018


Whoever designed the controls on this game please redo them to the original where R1 and L1 Or R2 AND L2 are the gear shifts I don't expect a lot of peop... Continue reading
Adult Written byEnderTinkerer A. March 6, 2018

This game is the best

You can let your kids play this game but not for too long.
Kid, 12 years old April 30, 2021
Teen, 17 years old Written byMannyReviews October 31, 2020

Great Racing Game

Need for speed is a racing game rivaled only by GTA and Forza. The goal is to go around the map and win races to gain allies that help you take over the car maf... Continue reading

What's it about?

In NEED FOR SPEED PAYBACK, you're an ex-illegal street racer who has to work his way back up the circuit. Your objective: to get revenge on someone who double-crossed you so that you can make it up to the former members of your crew, who you'll also get to play as. In other words, it's more like the original Fast and the Furious than Fate of the Furious. Players will enter lots of races, pull off stunts, and cruise around town like a man (or a woman) on a mission. They'll also have the option to potentially collect wrecked vehicles and build them into the ultimate version of a drag racer, off-road car, or other kind of machine.

Is it any good?

Though it's a noticeable improvement over the previous model, this illegal street racing game is neither the best seen from the series, nor this year's best driving game. In Need for Speed Payback, you play as a former street racer trying to rebuild your reputation -- and your friendships with your former crew. Which is really just an excuse to do a ton of illegal street races, off-road contests, and cool movie-style stunts. Just be careful, as the whole "illegal" thing might draw the attention of the local police, who you'll then have to knock out of the way or just outrun.

The thing is, while the racing is solid, and the stunt work is unique and challenging -- thanks to the game's solid controls and twisty tracks -- the boring characters and their clichéd dialogue makes the story stuff rather tiresome. This is reinforced when they start yapping away in the middle of a race. Also, since the game seems to be set on a holiday Sunday when everyone's out of town, the roads are rather empty, thus eliminating the fun and challenge of having to weave in and out of traffic. Competing in races can also turn into a grind, as they quickly become a matter of completing a number of races just to get the right parts to advance the story. All of which makes this game feel like it's trying to be Forza Horizon 3 but isn't even up to the first one of those games. Still, if you've enjoyed previous installments of this racing series, you'll have a thrilling ride with Need for Speed Payback.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about road safety. Does this game show you why it's important to obey the rules of the road? How about when they show you a car crash in slow motion?

  • Talk about revenge. What does this game show you about the pitfalls of revenge?

  • Families can talk about friendship. In the game, you're trying to win back your friends. Why are friends important?

Game details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love racing

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

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